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12/08/13 - Caesars Entertainment selling Macao property for $438 million

The Las Vegas-based company reported in a quarterly filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had agreed Tuesday to sell the golf course property in Macao to Pearl Dynasty Investments Ltd.


Caesars is the largest casino operator in the U.S., with properties in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, N.J., Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi and several other states. It is the only major U.S. casino company without a casino in Macao.


Five years ago, Caesars Entertainment Corp. paid $578 million for a golf course in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macao, hoping to use the land for a casino in the industry's biggest growth market.


But Caesars still hasn't received permission to build the casino. Last month the company actively began trying to unload the money-losing golf course and leave Macao.


"When you have that much capital devoted to an asset that's not delivering its potential, you need to consider other options," says Steven Tight, the company's president of international development.


Those options aren't great, however. Caesars' decision finally to pull the plug on its failed China casino strategy underscores how heavily the company relies on a sluggish U.S. gambling market that critics say doesn't provide a clear way to pay off heavy debt.


Rival companies MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. have Macau properties in the Chinese gambling enclave about a one-hour ferry ride from Hong Kong.


Corporate predecessor Harrah's Entertainment bought the 175-acre site in 2007 for $578 million, with plans to develop a hotel and casino. The name of the property was changed to Caesars Golf in 2010, after the corporate name change.


However, the company didn't apply in the early 2000's for one of a finite number of gambling licenses in Macau, and it never gained a gambling concession from the Macau government.


Caesars Entertainment said in a SEC filing last month that it plans to raise $1.2 billion by selling stock in the company.


It is also in the process of setting up an online gambling site for players in Nevada and is taking steps to spin off its online gambling venture into a separate company.


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